As consumers, we recognise the power we have to make a positive difference for the people who make our clothes and shoes we wear every day. We have the ability to ensure that the things we buy are made in safe environments by workers who are paid fairly and treated well, using good quality and safely produced fabrics.
The awareness of poor conditions and unfair wages has spurred on more brands to do things ethically and a range of ethical brands are now on the market.
We have picked a few of our favourite ethical shoe brands:
The idea behind Veja trainers comes from the need to combine social responsibility and design without compromising one for the other. Veja sources only fairly traded materials such as cotton, leather, and rubber. Cutting out the middle man, Veja purchases directly from cotton producers in South America and respects all fair trade principles. Each year Veja checks the chemical safety of their trainers to ensure all hazardous chemicals have been eliminated (results published to the website). Veja has a range of vegan trainers which in itself is pretty cool, but even more so, the leather is replaced by a fabric which is made out of recycled plastic bottles. The bottles are collected in Brazil, sorted, upcycled and made into a fabric fit for a Veja trainer.
When the founder of Sabah, Mickey Ashmore asked Orhan, a Turkish shoemaker to make him up a pair of leather slippers, he didn't know it yet but he had just created the first Sabah. Fast forward to 2019 and every single Sabah shoe is still made by Orhan and his family in Turkey, crafted by hand with the finest locally sourced leathers. Sabah’s pricing reflects the cost of the shoes to make, including fair wages for the craftspeople. Sabah gives their craftsmen long-term job security and opportunity for advancement.
ASOS - SOKO Kenya
ASOS released a limited edition ‘made in Kenya’ collection in 2018 created with SOKO Kenya - an ethical clothing manufacturer. SOKO Kenya runs a stitching academy to upskill people as well as providing training and access to health care for the local community. As they grow, more jobs and training opportunities are created in this remote area of Rukinga. SOKO has grown from four to 50 employees in 8 years.
ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by providing economic opportunity for women. Whilst living in Ethiopia, founder Barrett Ward saw how poverty was passed on from generation to generation, with women resorting to prostitution in order to support their families. The idea was to provide women with an alternative and give them an opportunity to earn money and empower each other. ABLE was born with this goal in mind. Every ABLE item is made by a woman and each time an item is purchased it gives them an opportunity and the ability to work in a safe and healthy environment. In a bid to be as transparent as possible, ABLE publishes the wages of all their employees.